Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s Brilliance Goes Beyond His Offense

Eric Gordon #10 of the Houston Rockets battles Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Eric Gordon #10 of the Houston Rockets battles Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

Much has been said about the offense from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. His 31 points per game average predicated from his league-leading 24.2 drives per game, 51/34/90 shooting splits, and sheer scoring finesse warranted that.

But, like any other offensive superstar in the league,  Shai Gilgeous-Alexander does more than just score. His impact on the floor extends beyond the traditional statistics.

SGA is leading the league in loose balls recovered at 1.1 per game (62 in total) in 56 games played this season. To put it in context, that mark is more than marquee role players Josh Hart, who recorded 56 so far, and Tari Eason, who had 53.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander does more than just score the ball, his high-level of impact goes beyond his offense.

Using his 6-foot-11 wingspan to great use, he is also number one in number of deflections this season at 197. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is also tied at third on deflections per game at 3.5 with Alex Caruso, whose calling card has always been his defensive efforts.

These deflections and loose ball recoveries not only can ignite surges for the Thunder and shift momentum to their side, but it also builds a winning mentality, especially for such a young, and rising team. These hustle numbers, particularly from the team’s lone All-Star, certainly attest OKC’s commitment to a winning culture.

These numbers can also be attributed to SGA’s fit and engagement on the Thunder’s defensive principles as it has also shown to have paid dividends to the team’s top 13 defense.

As the Thunder crowds the interior and often shrinks the floor for offensive players, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander relies heavily on his aforementioned lengthy reach, closing gaps on offenses as OKC’s defense almost always tends to overhelp on coverages.

Gilgeous-Alexander is not a focal point on defense, for sure. But for what he does on the floor, his efforts are more than astounding.

He is racking up a defensive win share of 2.4 — an impressive mark for such a high-usage offensive player — and is second behind defensive menace Lu Dort on matchup difficulty for the Thunder. Shai is also recording his career-high on defensive box plus-minus this season at 1.4.

Though his defensive engagement has not been quite consistent on the eye test throughout this season, his traditional defensive stats tell that when he does partake, opposing players have little room for error against him.

SGA is leading all guards on blocks this season with 1.1 per game. His 59 total blocks this season is also tied with Derrick White — a more known defensive guard — and is a few more than what bigmen Bam Adebayo, Draymond Green, and Steven Adams with the games they played so far.

He is also ranked third on steals per game at 1.7 a night. On stocks — a combination of steals and blocks —, Shai is still leading all guards at a value of 2.73 per game.

As strenuous as it is to carry a heavy load on offense (team-leader at a 32.4% usage rate), Gilgeous-Alexander’s stirring defensive chops often get overshadowed by an even more nifty offensive game.

Despite this, one thing has remained constant and true for him and Thunder — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a superstar.

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